update: can I leave my job after one year if I committed to more?

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, where all month I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer wondering about leaving a toxic job after a year even though she’d committed to staying for two years? Here’s the update.

I wrote to you back in March about wanting to leave my job with a jerk boss after one year even though I had verbally committed to at least two years on the job. Your response was so reassuring, and the commenters’ responses were validating as well. At the time, I had no idea whether I would be able to get a new job in a month or in a year, but I at least felt like I was making the right choice in aggressively applying for new positions.

The same day you posted my letter, a recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn about a position she was recruiting for. I went through the interview process and discerned that this opportunity was exactly what I was looking for in a new position. I got a great offer at a 37.5% raise from my previous annual earnings (!!!) and very happily accepted.

When I had the quitting conversation with my old boss, she responded positively and said she was happy for me. I naively assumed that I could go out on a high note instead of leaving on bad terms. However, pretty much immediately she started using my new job as another reason to unfairly criticise me, saying my attention wasn’t with her and that I was distracted because I was moving into a new job. (Meanwhile, I was actually working longer hours, doing everything I could to wrap up the major projects I was working on before I left or otherwise to minimize the amount of work my coworkers would have to do to see them to completion once I was gone). This kind of thing is par for the course with her, though, so I just tried to grin and bear it.

…That is, until she called me and some of my coworkers a really degrading insult in a meeting a week before I was set to leave. At that point, I was fed up, and with a new job lined up, I didn’t feel the need to stay for the rest of my two weeks. I left that day, telling my boss as calmly as I could that I felt that her management style relied on bullying people and that I could no longer work for her because of it. Did I burn a bridge? Yep. Do I care at all? Nope! I panicked at first after I did it because it felt like such a brash way to leave. But the more space I have from the job, the more time I’ve had to reflect on how deeply, deeply dysfunctional and toxic that work environment was. I’m glad that I stood up for myself, said my piece, and got the hell out of there!

Now I’m a few weeks into my new job, and I couldn’t be happier. My work environment is radically better, with everyone from the CEO to the interns being supportive. positive, and respectful toward each other every day. I get great feedback on my work, and my new boss has already taken the time to establish mentorship as part of our working relationship. This is my first time working in such a healthy, functional work environment. I wouldn’t have had the guts to get out and fight for a better position if it wasn’t for you and your readers giving me that final nudge forward that I needed.

{ 60 comments… read them below }

  1. OhNoYouDidn't*

    This is a great quitting story with a great outcome! Kudos to you for sticking up for yourself and for your success at your new job!

    1. Artemesia*

      Agreed and it is hard to imagine this boss would give a good reference later anyway. So glad you took the leap and it worked out.

      I had a similar experience although not as dramatic of having a boss comment how I was slacking off now that I was leaving when the opposite was true. I was really working hard to make sure that things were left ship shape, that I was leaving process information and lists of where projects were etc — it really hurt my feelings when I was trying so hard to be professional that this doink would think or say that.

    2. TeapotNinja*

      The only way this would’ve better, if she quit on the spot after the insults with all her coworkers present.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        I once quit an obviously lousy job after just a week or two — but had applied for a credit card right away, and got it.
        So I happily left and realized that if we get a reference that leads to a job offer, or get a c.c., maybe we can walk away when we want. Just like companies do what they want, so can we.

  2. Kate*

    I love this, sometimes bridges need to be burned to the ground. It happens very rarely but this is clearly worth it. I hope you feel fantastic.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        Does anyone have the link to the photo of the “I Quit” in fish? I can find the compilation where it is mentioned, but I believe the photo surfaced later.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          If you use the “search this site” box on the right, and just type in “cod” and then search, it is the fifth result to pop up. I think we are not allowed to post direct links in the comments or something, because whenever I do, it doesn’t seem to take.

          1. Elenna*

            We can post links, but it usually gets sent to moderation first so it takes some time to show up.

  3. Bookworm*

    Dang. Personally I see this as less of “burning a bridge” but rather you firming shutting a door on some seriously toxic and abusive behavior (just my opinion, of course!).

    I’m sorry you went through that but am glad you have landed in a much better situation!!

    1. Krabby*

      Agreed! Especially since it sounds like ToxicBoss would have been a terrible reference anyway.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        If anyone asks you can always say that she called me and fellow workers a really degrading insult so I felt my services wouldn’t be needed going forward.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed 1000%

      Good on you, OP. It’s amazing what a difference a healthy work environment has on your entire life.

    3. anonymouse*

      Yes, this is not burning a bridge as much as cutting a rope that was dragging you down. Now that you know you can’t use her as a professional reference, any emotional hold she had on you is gone.
      “should I check in and keep professional contact?” “what if she contacts me with questions?” “should I give her a heads up in the future?’
      No, no and nope.
      Move forward with no baggage.

    4. Beth*

      Yes! Some bridges need to be burned, so the terribleness you’re leaving behind can’t follow after you. It doesn’t sound like this boss was the type to give a good reference anyways, so I think you’re well rid of her, OP.

    5. allathian*

      Yeah, definitely agreed on this one. That boss wouldn’t have been a good reference, anyway.

  4. Elizabeth Bennett*

    I’ve done that too, OP. I now leave that job off my resume, because it’s better to explain 8 months of a gap on a positive spin than to name a toxic company on my resume.

  5. TiredMama*

    Best kind of update! Congratulations. If you are hanging out in the comments, would love to know how your former boss reacted (if you can share without becoming identifiable) when you stood up to her.

  6. Lucious*

    Professionalism is a two way street. If a boss is behaving disrespectfully , they will not be less so after an employee leaves regardless of notice given. If the boss is behaving in demonstrably toxic ways, leaving immediately is perfectly acceptable. No one is obligated to entertain a bully for 14 days, especially if it’s for naught .

    For bosses with vindictive or unethical tendencies, an immediate no-notice departure might even be prudent to to avoid damage to ones professional reputation.

  7. Theory of Eeveelution*

    A few years ago, after being at a new job for around 2 weeks, my boss viciously insulted me in front of every one of my coworkers. It was so random, uncalled for, and hateful that I uncontrollably burst into tears. At the time, we were all in a small, cramped room together, and there was no where I could go, so I just turned around and cried into the corner. No one said anything or stood up for me. I cannot emphasize how unnecessary the insult was. And it wasn’t even a reprimand–it was a straight-up classist and maybe racist insult.

    Anyway, this was years ago and I’ve since moved on from that job, but I think ALL THE TIME about that moment, and how I wish I’d had the strength and self respect to just walk away. I wish I’d just grabbed my things and wordlessly left. So, good for you for doing just that. You didn’t burn a bridge. The bridge was already on fire, and you chose not to burn to death.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I am so sorry that happened to you. I’m willing to bet that your colleagues were all horrified on your behalf, but felt powerless to do anything against someone who could fire them.

      You handled the situation in the way that you needed to. Don’t beat yourself up for that. The only person who deserves to feel badly about the situation or how it was handled was your boss.

      1. Observer*

        While you are probably right that the boss is the only truly horrible person here, I do actually hope that the rest of the coworkers feel bad about their lack of response. They may not have felt like they had a choice – and that’s a REALLY bad place to be. But it still was not a good way to handle the situation and it’s necessary for decent people to recognize that. And, hopefully to make them realize that they need to start trying to find some way out of the morass.

        Theory of Evolution would never know what any of the other coworkers were thinking about that, and if they did anything different because of it. And I don’t think it’s on them to figure that out anyway. That’s just a terrible position to be in.

        1. disconnect*

          “I do actually hope that the rest of the coworkers feel bad about their lack of response.”

          What I feel nowadays is sadness for that younger version of me who knew that it was a bullshit situation, but still couldn’t speak up. I couldn’t afford to lose the income, I had to pay rent and utilities and groceries, and if I’d spoken up I would have been the next target. I had no margin for error, no backup or support, I had to hustle every minute of every day, and I did what I needed to do to survive. It was a gross situation on so many levels, and the last thing I’m going to do is to feel bad about it.

          You’re absolutely right, it was a horrible situation to live through. What can you do to prevent it from happening in the future? Do that instead of hoping that people feel bad.

  8. Jackie Daytona*

    Unfortunately so many bullying, toxic, disrespectful bosses never find out or are never faced with real feedback of how employees experience them, because we are all so afraid of burning bridges, not having good references, and trying to get through our final days on the job without issues. But there are occasional situations where an employee leaves and does not have to fear those things, and then it’s like an opportunity that NEEDS to happen that a manager is told that they are the reason someone quit. So this is a great story, and congrats!

    1. J.B.*

      Even if they do receive such feedback they rewrite it to make the employee a “whiner”. One really funny memory from a dysfunctional place was two bad bosses standing outside my door talking about how good people find jobs that are promotions.

    2. Julia*

      This is why I always wonder: why aren’t there unions for white-collar jobs? It’s crazy that if you have a bad boss your best option is usually to leave. There needs to be *some* representation for the employees which the manager can’t ignore. HR is not it, as we’ve established. The boss’s boss is supposed to be ferreting out and correcting bad management and unreasonableness, but in practice it seems like that rarely works. We need something else.

      OP, in a system stacked against you, well done for asserting yourself calmly!

    3. CheezeWhizzard*

      My nasty boss tried to say that *I* was bullying *him*, when I stood up for myself and other colleagues and complained to his manager about his behaviour. Whatever. I can leave a job, but he’s stuck being him forever.

  9. Unkempt Flatware*

    How did your boss respond to the bullying? My guess based on my experience with these types is that she either laughed, yelled, or stared at you in shock.

  10. AnonyNurse*

    First RN job out of nursing school, at an inpatient psych facility. It was horrible and I’d already given my notice after like 4 months. I wasn’t safe. Patients weren’t safe. Etc.

    Then a supervisor called a tech a “pussy” for expressing concern about staffing levels. I was midway through my notice period. I informed her it was my last shift.

    When the day staff arrived, the manager said to me, in a threatening tone, “is this REALLY how you want your first nursing job to end?” And I said, “this is the best possible way for it to end.”

    And I was, tragically, correct.

    1. bunniferous*

      If you are implying what I think you are implying with the word “tragically”….oof.

  11. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Sometimes it’s not burning a bridge as much as securing your escape. You left with your dignity and put your boss on notice that you won’t tolerate disrespect even on the way out.

  12. Slow Gin Lizz*

    OP, you are my hero!!!!! Congratulations and nice job leaving the toxic job when it became even more toxic!!!! Go you!!!

  13. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I am so glad you stood up for yourself! I hope you spent your interim free time watching glorious “I quit” videos on YouTube!

  14. BRR*

    I hope it’s ok to pile on this one time and say you did not burn a bridge. Would this boss give you a good reference anyways? It’s really amazing you were able to professionally tell her that.

  15. irene adler*

    Burning a bridge implies that the employer behaved properly.
    This one did not.
    So all bets are off. You took care of you. That’s what you are supposed to do.

    Did this boss really believe she could insult the OP without consequences? Hmmm, such ego.

  16. Nanani*

    I hope your new job is everything it appears to be and you never need to so much think of the old one ever again.

  17. Dasein9*

    My mental image on reading this is that meme of the kitten strutting away from the conflagration in the background.

    Your boss burned the bridge; you just refused to go up in flames.

  18. AKchic*

    You didn’t burn the bridge. That toxic boss was actively burning it daily. You just stopped trying to put it out and let the toxic boss continue burning their own bridge with an employee (you). What you did (stopped managing a fire of the boss’s own making) will empower other employees to stop managing/minimizing the other fires that boss sets.

    Eventually, that “boss” is going to be the only person in the building, fully aflame, with nobody to blame for the crumbling, ash and smoke filled chaos but herself.

  19. Sled Dog Mama*

    I had a very similar thing happen to me (outright yelled and cursed at two days before my last day) guy wasn’t even my supervisor. I stopped in the middle of a presentation and walked out, picked up my purse and called HR on my way out the door. Fortunately HR was very understanding and said we’re going to put it down as you working out your notice and we’ll let your supervisor know that 1) you have the rest of the week off, paid, without impacting your PTO payout and 2) he should have escalated this to us months ago when it didn’t stop after he addressed it.

  20. Al*

    I rage quit once and it was the best thing I ever did. ABout 3-4 years agoI’d been on and off work for weeks with suspected COPD, what was confirmed by the doc and a consultant as Late Onset Asthma, heart issues, panic attacks due to being unable to breathe etc. Finally back to work with pills and inhalers, got in early, the “Boss” came in (large bloke, played rugby). 10 minutes later he came over to me red-faced and yelling because I’d left an unwashed plate in my drawer ( I’d gone off ill to the hospital, I hadn’t been that concerned about the plate). I was sat down and he was doing the usual trying to tower over me (I’m a little 5′ 6″ tubby guy) and he was shouting. Well I lost it, yelled at him, smashed my laptop over the desktop (rather than smashing him but it came very close) and started to leave, realised I’d left my personal phone, turned round and said “Move out of my way” and walked towards him still furious. To this day I remember how he backed away with that little glint of fear in his eyes. Grabbed my phone and left. As I walked out of the door he whispered (I’ve got excellent hearing) “good riddance”. I stopped and I heard him back away. Then I decided it best to leave and did so.
    And how I know the company knew what he was like? Had a letter requesting £750 for a new laptop and never heard a thing about anything else, even got paid until the end of the month.
    So don’t worry about quitting, sometimes you must, for your own good and that of others.

  21. Narise*

    Make sure the insult she called you is included in any glass door review as to the final straw that caused you to leave the job.

  22. LaLa762*

    Good for YOU, letter writer!
    I too burned a bridge – once and only once – and it was 100% worth it.
    I was in TEARS discussing this with my sister, how I just didn’t think I could last the two weeks notice period in this incredibly toxic work environment – I already had a new job and start date lined up.
    She asked me if I ever wanted to work there, or with any of those people again.
    It was like a light went on! I NEVER wanted to work there or with those people ANYWHERE ELSE again. If that meant I got blackballed by one of them, at a future company, I’d be so grateful!
    I walked in the day after that conversation and quit – one day notice – and I’ve never regretted it.

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